Baseball's 10 best error cards: From "F--- FACE" to "No Name on Front"

cllct's list includes mistaken players, flipped negatives and, of course, obscene bat knobs

Cover Image for Baseball's 10 best error cards: From "F--- FACE" to "No Name on Front"
The late 1980s and early 1990s were the golden age of baseball error cards.

Everyone makes mistakes, and trading-card manufacturers are no different — though their mistakes are more public than most.

Jackson Holliday's tribute to one of the hobby’s most famous error cards in 2024 Topps Series 2 has left collectors reminiscing over the biggest mistakes and mishaps of all time, and the cllct team is no different.

Here’s the cllct list of famous baseball cards with printing errors, spelling mistakes and unfortunate photos.

1990 Topps Frank Thomas

Any error card list should include the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card simply due to its secondary market pricing. A top prospect back in 1990, Thomas lived up to the hype en route to becoming a Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP.

Printed during the Junk Wax Era, Thomas’ typical 1990 Topps rookie isn’t particularly rare or extremely valuable — but this error is both.

A production sheet issue caused some cards to print without a proper nameplate, creating the "No Name on Front Error."

Thomas’ "No Name on Front Error" has a PSA population of just 251 graded cards and just one PSA 10, which sold for $170,400 in 2022. The correct "Name on Front" variation has a total population of more than 22,000 with more than 3,500 PSA 10s.

1989 Fleer Billy Ripken

Plenty of error cards are worth more money, but few are as infamous as the Billy Ripken "F--K FACE" card. Featuring a simple bat-over-shoulder pose, collectors immediately noticed the knob on Ripken’s bat featured an obscene label.

Ripken originally told reporters he was pranked, but he later admitted to labeling the bat himself so he could spot it easily.

Meant to only be used during batting practice, the bat accidentally made its way into the 1989 Fleer Baseball set without anyone noticing.

Fleer scrambled to make corrections, and there are now five total variations in PSA’s graded card census. Including the unedited card, PSA has graded more than 20,000 examples with corrections ranging from simple scribbles over the label to the popular "Black Box Over Error" variation.

A PSA 10 copy sold through Goldin in May for $489.

1989 Score Paul Gibson

Much like the 1989 Fleer Ripken card, the 1989 Score Paul Gibson features an unfortunate image that made its way into the set.

While this card doesn’t feature any offensive language, it does show a player in the background making an awkward adjustment to their protective equipment. The "Player in Background Adjusting Cup" card has been graded by PSA 10 a total of 37 times with just four PSA 10s.

Score noticed the odd image and, rather than make a more complicated adjustment, simply opted to airbrush most of the problematic arm off. The one-armed infielder isn’t quite as popular as the original.

The "Hand Airbrushed Away" variation has been graded just six times by PSA.

2006 Topps Alex Gordon

The major error with the 2006 Topps Alex Gordon card is that it’s not supposed to exist at all.

A new ruling made it so manufacturers could only make cards of players that were on a team’s 25-man roster or had played in an MLB game the previous season. The No. 2 overall pick in 2005, Gordon didn’t qualify.

Gordon was originally included in the set before Topps made a last-second change to remove him — but not before cards had already been printed, packed and shipped to stores.

Some collectors were willing to pay thousands at the time for even raw copies, and high-grade examples are still valuable today.

PSA has graded 211 total examples with 34 PSA 10s. A PSA 10 copy sold through PWCC in 2020 for $2,075.

1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds

Sometimes manufacturers spell names wrong or feature odd things in the background. Other times, the picture is just completely wrong, and that’s the case with the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds card.

There’s no special story here about production sheets or odd happenings in the background. The issue is that the photo of Bonds just isn’t Bonds at all.

Coming off a solid 16-homer, 48-RBI rookie season, Bonds was rewarded with a card of his teammate, Johnny Ray. Donruss eventually corrected the card with Bonds in a white jersey.

To date, PSA has graded 164 Dark Jersey Johnny Ray cards with 14 PSA 10s and just over 3,000 of the corrected cards with 244 PSA 10s.

A corrected PSA 10 example recently sold for $190 while a PSA 10 example of the Johnny Ray error sold through PWCC in 2023 for $8,550.

T206 Sherry Magee

The T206 set is best known for the famous Honus Wagner card, but there are a variety of other surprises throughout the many variations.

One of the most sought after cards from the set is an error featuring a misspelling of Sherry Magee as “Magie” instead.

Magee would play 16 years and even led the National League in RBI four different times during the Dead Ball Era. A lifetime .291 hitter, Magee deserved a little better than this unfortunate typo.

PSA has graded more than 500 examples of the correct card and just 142 of the “Magie” error — which has caused a massive delta in price.

Just this year, Heritage Auctions sold a PSA 3 example of the “Magie” error for $30,000. A PSA 4 copy of the corrected Portrait sold for $444 in May.

1985 Topps Gary Pettis

Not unlike the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Bonds card, the 1985 Topps Gary Pettis was a right name, wrong person situation.

Pettis was about to win the first of five Gold Gloves over the next six seasons in 1985, but his Topps card captured the wrong person.

According to Pettis, his younger brother, Lynn, would often come to the ballpark and shag balls while wearing an Angels uniform. A Topps photographer mistakenly asked Lynn for his photo and was never corrected.

"He had a good time with it," Gary Pettis told in 2018. "He was actually in USA Today. They had a picture of the card and the whole story behind it. It was pretty cool. A good story for him."

The result is the younger Lynn Pettis on the front of Gary’s 1985 Topps card.

PSA has graded 42 of the 1985 Topps Pettis card with 23 PSA 10s.

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy

The 1989 Upper Deck Baseball release did so many things right. It delivered a premium product on superior cardstock with better packaging. It truly changed sports cards forever.

It also gave collectors one of the most famous cards of all time: the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr., which remains PSA’s most graded card decades later.

Not everything was perfect, however, especially for Atlanta Braves fans and Dale Murphy

Upper Deck did almost everything right for the two-time MVP winner — Murphy’s name was spelled correctly and the photo was the correct player. Unfortunately for UD, the image was clearly reversed horizontally and easily spotted by the awkward Braves logo across Murphy’s chest.

PSA has graded 852 copies of the "Reverse Negative" and just 457 of the corrected image. A PSA 10 copy for the "Reverse Negative" sold through eBay for $503 in May, while a corrected PSA 10 sold in April for just $72.

1990 Pacific Jim Nettles

While not as well known as the Ripken card, former Minnesota Twins outfielder Jim Nettles was also caught with an unfortunate bat knob.

Nearly a decade after his MLB run ended in 1981, Nettles was playing for the Senior League — meant for players 35 and up — when he was photographed for the 1990 Pacific Senior League set.

As Nettles tells it, the photographer provided him with a bat to hold for the photo. The bat wasn’t his, and it just happened to have the word “a--hole” written across the knob.

Nettles wasn’t happy but the card has been a lesser-known favorite among collectors for years. PSA has graded 149 "Vulgarity on Bat Knob" cards with 39 PSA 10s and a combined 22 cards across the "No Vulgarity" and "No Vulgarity Glossy" variations.

1988 Topps Al Leiter

Despite being a top prospect coming into 1988, Leiter still didn’t get the rookie card he deserved. At least at first.

Explained by Leiter to MLB Network in 2021, Topps photographers confused Leiter and teammate Steve George — George is the player originally shown on Leiter’s 1988 Topps rookie.

According to Leiter, George wrote the letters “SG” on his glove and Topps inadvertently read “SG” as Leiter’s No. 56 jersey and photographed the wrong player.

Topps would eventually fix Leiter’s card, though plenty made it out into the hands of collectors.

PSA has graded 144 examples of "No “NY” On Shirt" card — this is the photo of George without the team logo on the front of the jersey visible — and 142 of the corrected “NY On Shirt" card with Leiter facing a different direction.

A PSA 10 example of the error card sold for $200 late last year, while PSA 10 copies of the corrected card can be had for $50.

Ben Burrows is a reporter and editor for cllct.